Tow Alongside


  • Practice and develop the boat handling skill of towing a disabled boat or a sailboat alongside and docking it.

Setting Up the Drill:

  • Equipment: bow, stern, and spring lines; and at least 3 fenders

Conducting the Drill:

  • The towboat comes alongside the boat to be towed and briefs it on procedures and intentions.
  • The towboat rigs lines and adjusts fenders for an alongside tow.
  • Each operator makes turns to port and starboard.
  • Each boat (each person onboard time permitting) does a pivot turn with the tow alongside and then docks the towed boat.

Teaching Tips:

  • Emphasize that the boats should be fastened tightly to each other with minimum slack.
  • The towboat should be toed in slightly toward the boat being towed.
  • Teach the concept of “leaning on a tow” where gentle pressure is applied on the towed boat and then wait a few moments to start responding rather than applying large amounts of power with resulting damage and loss of control of the tow.

Common Errors:

  • Towboat is not positioned far enough aft of the boat to be towed.
  • Lines tying boats together are not snug enough.


  • Safety & Rescue Boat Handling On-Water Skill Standard 3.1 and its rubrics
  • Safety, Rescue & Support Boat Handling textbook pg. 46